Thursday, October 8, 2009
A look back at one of Sharon's co-stars and her last film
This would, unfortunately, be Sharon's last film. The film crew adored her. When Sharon Tate arrived in Rome for filming near the end of March 1969, she was about three months pregnant and beginning to show. Because the script called for several semi-nude scenes, the director arranged to film those scenes first. As filming (and her pregnancy) progressed, the director obscured Tate's stomach with large purses and scarves. This is most apparent in the scene following her ride in the furniture mover's van.
According to Sharon's sister Debra, on the Official Sharon Tate Site:
Sharon's optimism (over her pregnancy) took a beating over the first few months of filming. It was a hard shoot for her. She was sick quite a bit and as the pregnancy progressed it became harder for her to continue the action scenes that peppered the movie. There was a great deal of running around and it was hard on Sharon's swollen feet. Between takes she would sit in her chair on the set and rest. She never asked for special treatment though. She came to the set on time, knew her lines and gave it her all. Vittorio Gassman kept close to Sharon and looked after her. Making her laugh when she felt bad. Again, Sharon had charmed a costar. The director took pains to hide Sharon's ever swelling stomach but Sharon herself reveled in her pregnant form. Loving to be photographed holding her belly.
One fan on the Internet Movie Database wrote this glowing review of the film:
The lovely Miss Tate shines in an incredibly goofy, obscure, guilty pleasure of a film! I must say I have been entranced by the beauty and mystery of the gorgeous Sharon Tate for a while now, so her presence was what initially led me to seeking out this rare gem. I saw it under the title "12+1", and I must say, if you are a Tate fan this is well worth seeking out. The movie itself is a fast-paced, slapstick comedy set in swinging London and various European countries. Vittorio Gassman plays Mario, a man who sells thirteen antique chairs bequeathed to him by his late aunt to an antique shop in London, where he meets the groovy, blonde-haired honey known as Sharon Tate. However, the catch is that Mario's aunt has hidden a fortune in one of the chairs, and he, along with Sharon Tate's Pat, sets off on journey throughout Europe to find the fortune, all the while a string of mishaps and misfortunes befalls him and his smashing partner in crime. The movie itself is interesting to watch, for its incredibly dated but very amusing sixties atmosphere, corny music, dialogue and the overall goofiness of what Mario and Pat experience while searching for the chairs. Miss Tate seems to be enjoying herself here, and I found her to be incredibly witty and sexy in what would sadly be her last motion picture appearance. Highlights, besides Miss Tate's delightfully comical performance: Miss Tate's breasts popping out unexpectedly in several scenes, Miss Tate having a wet t-shirt contest, a screeching uber-queen named Jackie frolicking through a field of flowers singing, "I've got the chairs, I've got the chairs!", the Jekyll and Hyde play sequence with Orson Welles as Markau, with Vittorio Gassman hamming it up while trying to get his hands on one of the chairs: "I'm JACK THE RIPPER!", plus, Mario paying money to "have sex" with one of the chairs, among numerous other moments of hilarity in this obscure classic. This is one of those numbers that is likely to never receive a DVD release, so get your hands on the ultra-rare VHS as soon as possible!
As the film went under a number of titles (mainly not to be confused with Mel Brooks' movie "The Twelve Chairs" which is based on the same Russian story and was filmed and released at practically the same time), nobody really knew how to market the movie and as a result it had a cursory theatrical release in the US and a much wider release in such places as Italy and Belgium, and disappeared until this mid-80s video release (and has disappeared again since).
Your best bet would be to find it on eBay--there are versions of the movie on sale with either 'The Thirteen Chairs' or '12+1' and depending where you are, one can pick up a copy in either NTSC or PAL systems, usually on dvd-r.
After filming Sharon spent time in London with Roman. Roman was still working on "The Day of the Dolphin" script and would be delayed because of it for a time. But Sharon was anxious to have the baby in the United States so she and Roman decided it would be best for her to go by ship on the Queen Elizabeth II. Roman promised to be there before the birth, however.
I found this memorable comment made by Daniel Winner on Facebook this past summer: "40 years ago as an eleven year old boy crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth 2, my mother pointed out a tall, beautiful blond woman in the art gallery of the ship. I had no idea who she was...My mother said, 'That's Sharon Tate!'...; I observed her for a while...She was alone, quietly looking at the pictures, wearing a hippy vest and visibly pregnant. At some point she noticed me looking at her and smiled sweetly. 3 weeks later she'd be dead. This has affected me all my life."